WAITING FOR THE MAGI for Samuel Beckett & O. HenryHey, buddy, got a comb? That depends; you got the time? Watch out! (Joke of the Magi)“Resist!” I wail as left-brain soldiers goose-step through my mind. A single right-brain freedom fighter guards my entry door. “Sergeant Triage,” I command, “Slit no envelopes not addressed by hand.” Left-brain troops outrace General Sinister, lurching in his jeep. A death platoon, their orders: Quarter any soul you roust on shadowed streets! I stumble round a corner in my mind, see soldiers bending over a broken child; they raise blood-smeared faces, fan out, move toward me. The general pulls up in his jeep, commands they heave the wasted child at my feet. I shift my weight and hold his gaze, refuse his invitation to look into the corpse’s face. If I can keep these guys at bay til Pegasus arrives with my right brain, then I can mount and ride the sky....POEM GOING NOWHEREPoetry is the art of substantiating shadows. - Edmund BurkeDEAD END whoops a roadsign, squares its yellow shoulders to my view; I yank on the handbrake, angle wheels to the berm the way I’d park an oxcart centuries ago. I stroll inside a diner, slide across cracked vinyl, elbow-prop my chin, watch the sun extract itself from a rusty chain of clouds. The droop-eyed waiter flares a lemon-tasting look when I say No to coffee, raise my pluming mug from home. Soon he brings me soft-boiled eggs in scalding shells, smiles, leaves my breakfast koan: how to reach the molten core without scorched fingers or crunched teeth on shattered snow. Sol’s now leapt a wall across the street, dances on its top, thrusts a cutlass in my eye. My other pupil hides behind my nose, tries to focus on a poem scratched to life last night. I almost tossed this poem in the fireplace that stared at me, ashen jaws agape, as if I were a dentist sent to stuff it full of failed poems, forbid it swallow til I torched its molars clean. By the time my meal’s done I realize this poem’s going nowhere, can’t be prodded from the page. When I get back I’ll have to crumple up its egg-stained lines, fire its twisted toes inside the fireplace, watch it prance for fifteen seconds, all it rates of Warhol fame.CAT’S CLAPPERPoetry is a way of taking life by the throat. - Robert FrostMy cat went berserk at dawn, balanced on a ladder, wildly swatted the doorbell clapper like he’d trapped a bat. Now I’m clapped inside my sports car, lolly-gagging down a mountain road I’d hoped would zoom my spirit free. Frustration yanks me out of the parade of pick-ups, wagons, mini-vans, halts me on the shoulder, thumbs tobacco in my briar pipe, bends a match’s flame. I rejoin the caravan, nicotine shooting through my veins, breathe deep, smile, steer one-handed, invent stories for each life that dawdles with me down the road. On semester break, I’ve fled a stack of bluebooks to see if muses find a roost where left-brained hurricanes have whipped the branches bare. I’m not sure which half of my gasping brain needs nurture, rolfing, rest, and change. Should I turn back to the office, slump behind its oblong eye, let my fingers roam the keys, hope they’ll stroke some lines of verse? Or should I pull off at the next café, guzzle coffee, grab a pen, let it romp across a page? Mad cat whispers, When in doubt, do both!